Al-Shabab militants in Somalia on Friday attacked an African Union (AU) military base where Ugandan troops are stationed, triggering clashes.
It was not immediately known whether there were any casualties in the attack, which was claimed by the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group.
A car laden with explosives drove into the hideout in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, triggering a shootout, local residents and a Somali military commander told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Pro-government forces known as ATMIS, backed by an AU force, launched an offensive last August against al-Shabaab, which has been waging an insurgency in the fragile Horn of Africa for more than 15 years.
ATMIS said al-Shabaab militants “attacked the Bulo Marer camp at 5:00 a.m. (2 a.m. GMT) using Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) and suicide bombers.”
“The aviation unit of ATMIS and reinforcements from allies succeeded in destroying weapons in the possession of withdrawing al-Shabaab terrorists,” it said in a statement.
Ugandan soldiers stationed in Somalia as part of ATMIS were targeted, Uganda People’s Defense Forces spokesman Felix Kulayige said in a statement, adding that the force was “cross-checking” details.
The 20,000-strong ATMIS force has a more aggressive mandate than its predecessor, known as AMISOM.
The force is drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, with troops stationed in southern and central Somalia.
Its goal is to hand over security responsibility to Somalia’s army and police by 2024.
Al-Shabaab claimed through its communication channels that it had overrun the base and that it had inflicted a large number of casualties.
But Somali military commander Mohamed Yero Hassan said the attackers had been repelled and “the situation is now back to normal”.
“The terrorists were forced to retreat and flee,” Hasan told AFP by telephone.
al shabaab Propaganda has been known to exaggerate claims of combat gains, while the governments of countries contributing troops to the AU force rarely confirm casualties.
Attacks on army targets in different parts of Somalia are difficult to independently verify.
ATMIS said that “every effort is being made to bring the situation under control”.
Last year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mahmud launched an “all-out war” on the militants, rallying Somalis to help drive out extremist group members he called “bugs.”
In recent months, the army and militias known as “MacWhistles” have retaken territory in the heart of the troubled country in an operation supported by ATMIS and US airstrikes.
The US Africa Command said on Monday that it had carried out a strike earlier over the weekend in Jilib, in Somalia’s south, and that initial assessments indicated no civilians were harmed.
Despite gains by pro-government forces, militants have continued to attack with lethal force against civilian and military targets.
In the deadliest al-Shabaab attack since the offensive began, 121 people were killed in October in two car bombings at the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu.
In a report to the UN Security Council in February, UN chief Antonio Guterres said 2022 was the deadliest year for civilians in Somalia since 2017, largely as a result of al-Shabaab attacks.